February 1 was National Signing Day, and the best-of-the-best made their college commitments.
The worst-of-the-worst also came out with the fun and games of 17-year-old kids being treated as gods of sport. If you haven’t seen it, there was a recruit who “punked” Florida and Florida State before announcing his commitment to USC.
I had two thoughts when I saw this. First, I wonder if the USC staff is praising this? Second, I wonder if this kid has any idea what to expect next year?
What can I expect Freshman year? The short answer is you can expect more. More of everything.
College coaches also expect more from you than your high school coach did. If you are a 4-star recruit like Levi Jones, then the coaches are expecting WAY more from you. No matter where you were ranked in high school, the next level is a clean slate.
I guarantee your first college practice will leave you exhausted. Not because coach made you run laps or sprints, but because the volume of everything is turned up to a point you aren’t used to. More throws, more swings, more focus on each rep with an intensity that you haven’t seen yet. Your brain will hurt as much as your hands and feet.
In high school ‘opportunity’ to win a job is limited. You practice less, the season is shorter, etc. In college you are coached all year long. Opportunities don’t come in games in college. Opportunities come a million different ways before the game is ever played. Team meetings, team lifts, individuals, grades, behavior, practice THEN games. These are all opportunities that you are being evaluated on. Everything you do matters. People who think opportunity only comes in during the season are sadly mistaken.
Because of the intense focus, the volume and the millions of opportunities for playing time, players are under greater pressure to perform. The difference is you are more prepared to perform in college. With more focus on your reps, with a higher volume of reps, and with more opportunity comes being more prepared to perform. The players who take these seriously and make everything matter are the ones who perform when the bell rings. A lot of jobs have been won on a pinch-hit at bat, a quick injury substitution or a mop up start. Those guys were ready when called upon. A lot of jobs have also been lost in the same situations.
I hate saying it’s your job for four years, but it essentially is. Schoolwork comes first no matter where you go to school. If you can’t make the grades then you can’t play. Your sport comes next, and when you aren’t in the classroom, you are available to your coach. There are NCAA rules, and coaches are also conscious of college kids needing to have a life, but it is a major commitment no matter the division.
Every summer, college coaches travel the country recruiting. That’s how they found you. I’ll let you in on a secret about recruiting…Coaches try to recruit a better class each year than the year before. Do the math, as a senior the coaches are shooting to have that freshman class be 4 times better than your class. It doesn’t always happen that way, but you catch my drift. It’s all about competition. That means you have to win your job every year. You have to beat the guys next to you, in front of you, and the class coming in behind you. It’s a constant cycle of competition. There is no ‘he plays because he’s a senior’. Nope. Doesn’t happen. If he’s playing, he’s earned it.
Your teammates don’t care where you were ranked in high school, or how you made your commitment on national TV. They did it too. They were ranked too.
You punked college coaches when you committed? That’s cool, bro, I played every snap for this team last year at your position. I don’t care who you punked.
Colleges are breeding grounds of temptation in so many ways. There is less supervision and more ‘extracurriculars,’ so to speak. Certain guys succumb to temptation and put other things ahead of athletics and grades. More careers go down the drain off the field than on it. My college coach had a great line that he would use throughout the year. He would say, “there are three aspects to your four years. There’s the classroom, the playing field, and the dorm. You can only be really good in 2 of those places. You pick the two.”
Seems like a pretty big commitment, right? On top of all of it, you are going to disagree with your coach, and you are going to call home complaining about him at some point, I guarantee it. He’s going to get on you. He’s going to yell at you and sometimes it will happen in front of all of your teammates. You won’t like it. You can pout, or you can learn from it.
Being a college athlete is the best way to spend your time at school. It adds so much to the entire experience. You have a team of friends when you walk in the door. You have structure. You have the chance to be really good at something other than school work. You get to keep playing the game you love. You’ll get to experience things that the ordinary student wouldn’t dream of. Are there times you will be upset? Yes. Are there times you’ll call home complaining? Yes. Do the good times outweigh the tough times? ABSOLUTELY.
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